You’re a 15-year-old guy with bright blue eyes, carefully spiked blond hair and overly-baggy clothes. There’s about a week left of summer vacation and you’re looking for something to do. You don’t have a girlfriend – although you have a pretty serious bromance going on with your friend Hayner – so you and your friends are trying to think of something to do together. Like maybe building a rocket? Or fighting a mummy? Or climbing up – sorry. Wrong kids.
The beach! Of course! The last few days to soak up sun, mess around in the surf, pretend to destroy Pence and Olette’s sand castle, stage mock battles with Hayner. But alas! No munnies! (No, really, the currency is “munny.”) What is a strapping young man to do? Why, what is this? Flyers for odd jobs? Huzzah!
|In neon, no less.|
So you take on a few different one-off things. Here’s one right up your street: put up flyers for the annual Struggle. And this one: attract a crowd to a shop by bouncing a ball off your Struggle bat as many times as possible. A little unusual, maybe, but munnies! Oh, and here: busting up swarms of bumblebees with your Struggle bat to get them out of the Tram Common.
Yes, indeed, ladies and gentlemen. You have just become Roxas, Exterminator Extraordinaire! And while the task is certainly a silly one, it’s not that specific thing that bothers me about this. It’s all part of an underlying issue: the mini-game, the side quest, the mission.
Mini-games and missions are something of a double-edged sword. They can be great. Maybe you want to play the game, but you’re not really feeling the story aspect of it. Or you just don’t have the time to devote to actually getting anything done. You can still mess around with the characters, environment, tools that you love in small chunks. One game I think does this very well is Crisis Core:FFVII. The story side is very linear and doesn’t allow much freedom of movement – not that that keeps me from loving it to pieces and sobbing like a widow by the end – but if you’re looking to just kill 15 minutes or do some grinding, you have the option of doing missions. What I think is particularly great about the Crisis Core missions is that they’re really not necessary. You’re definitely going to miss out on things, like hard-to-get items if you don’t do them, but it’s up to you whether you do or not.
|But if you don't, you'll totally lose the opportunity to do the cactuar dance, so really, is it worth it?|
Some games, though, go a little overboard with the mini-games and side quests. They’re made too irritating or too essential to the rest of the game, so rather than being a fun diversion they become that part of the game that feels more like work than entertainment and who plays a game to feel like it’s a chore? Not having played aught but one MMO for a brief period, I can’t speak to what I’m sure is a wealth of hair-tearing frustration in the form of side quests (at least this is what webcomics and blogs have led me to believe), although there is one I’ve always enjoyed for its sheer ridiculousness: that would be the 7 year spanning, running all over Hyrule side quest which culminates in the Biggoron sword in my beloved Ocarina of Time.
|And it all starts with that damn Cucco Lady.|
Silly? Definitely. Over the top? Perhaps, but at least entertaining. However, one of my favorite series of games is, in my eyes, the worst offender for irritating mini-games. And that would be Kingdom Hearts. That bee busting thing I mentioned at the beginning? It’s an odd job Roxas does to earn money. And guess what? You get to do it again! As Sora! For nothing! Except a little gold Mickey head marking the accomplishment in Jiminy’s journal.
|Curse you, tiny golden idol|
But they quickly changed things up and made the requirements much more complicated. And the part that kills me the most is the awful, awful mini-games. Find and open all the chests in every world? Sure. Synthesize every Moogle item (some of which can only be accomplished through quite a bit of grinding for item drops)? Yeah, okay. But fool around with the abilities you have equipped just so you can do Cargo Climb in less than 15 seconds? To what purpose? And don’t even get me started on how much I would love to be able to burn that book and never set foot in 100 Acre Wood again.
|I seriously doubt it.|
As with all the other missions, side quests and mini-games, are they necessary to complete? Of course not. Do I really want the thing they grant me? Yes, and I’ve yet to be able to complete the requirements to earn it. That may simply be saying something about my level of skill in play, but the point is that I find the exercise to be that: exercise. Not pleasant, not fun, not enjoyable. Just a grind to reach a goal that I have never met. I’m sure there is any number of talented gamers who breezed through the whole thing, but to me it’s unnecessary and sucks some of the fun out of the experience.
I suppose my point is, Square, lay off, huh?
*Side note* In my search for images for this post, I came across stuff. A lot of stuff. I’m a pretty “to each their own” kind of person, but some of you out there suck. And I kind of hate you. And I have to scrub my brain out now.